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Breast Cancer: The Story of One Patient

Michelle has always been the funniest person with the most contagious laugh at every family meeting until she was diagnosed with cancer six months ago. I loved visiting my aunt as she would always have a little gift for me – jewelry, which she is obsessed with. Michelle still has the most colorful and extravagant yet elegant outfits at every gathering. With the diagnosis came the change of character, depression, fear in the eyes, and mundane clothes. It is fascinating to trace the gradual transformation of a person throughout a history of the illness, which will be demonstrated by outlining my dialogue with her.

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Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer days prior to her 40th birthday, which she was excited to celebrate. The call from the doctor, as she explains, has divided her life into before and after. The news became devastating for Michelle and her family; thus, she commanded not to express pity in her presence, as she has always wanted to be strong for everyone. Michelle expresses her emotions in the first moments of the news: “I was truly betrayed as a woman that the very thing that gives sustenance to a new life could become the death of you.” Therefore, that moment became a turning point and the beginning of a long battle with breast cancer.

Breast cancer is a diagnosis each woman is frightened to hear, which becomes a burden for the rest of the life. It is the second most prevalent cancer diagnosed among women in the United States (Mayo Clinic, 2019). In recent years the support and spread of awareness regarding the disease have reached their peak, which consequently helped the disease treatment funding. Such tendency significantly increased survival and decreased death rates specifically related to breast cancer, with the most advanced technology emergence. Even though the diagnosis is highly dangerous, its identification in the early stages, which is the case for Michelle, provides a high probability of fully recovering.

Threatening diagnosis such as cancer is expected to bring a change of character; however, it is always a mystery how a person will take the news and go through an internal battle of fear, devastation, and hope. At the family gatherings, Michelle kept her head high, however internally, she felt “obliged to be joyful, when inside I was dying physically and mentally.” A depressive and sad mental state is common among patients, and family members are coping with cancer (American Cancer Society, 2020). Mental pressure and fear took over my aunt during the first months of her cancer journey; thus, it is critical to prevent the severe stages of grief.

Michelle has always had the best hair in the family, which every member highly admired at every event. The start of chemotherapy and consequent loss of all the hair significantly worsened the state of my aunt’s mind. Not only was she frightened each time going through chemotherapy and the indescribable pain it gave, but also the reflection in the mirror afterward, the woman shared. She grieved the loss of her hair, but with that, Michelle felt like she lost her dignity and pride that has always been the fundamental part of self-confidence. All a brave woman saw in herself is a cancer patient instead of a joyful, confident woman, wife, and mother. And in this state, Michelle was diagnosed with depression.

When the overwhelming feelings of death started to take over, Michelle decided it was enough and start directing her mental health into a more positive path. She began therapy and convinced her husband and daughter to do it too so that each of the family members could find a way to deal with the current circumstances. Such treatment is proved to improve the mental health among people with cancer, allowing them to have a better quality of life (American Cancer Society, 2020). Individual and group therapy helped Michelle and her family to look at the situation more positively and channel their fear into expressing love and support.

After talking with each other about their feelings, a woman discovered that her daughter was perhaps even more scared of the illness consequences than Michelle. 13-year old Lilly revealed to her therapist that she was frightened to lose her mother and also feared that breast cancer is what she is going to develop as a woman too. My aunt was shaken with such revelation: “I was so focused on myself and my problems that did not even acknowledge how terrified my own daughter was.” The incident taught how important it is to listen, support, and encourage one another because it is not just one person that is affected by cancer; it is the whole family, Michelle emphasizes.

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When a family member is diagnosed with cancer, it is everyone that is affected by the disease. This is something my aunt did not realize until beginning counseling. The family dynamic significantly changes after the frightening call from the doctor, and from that second, each person is starting to learn the new habits of living. “In the first months of my journey, I realized to be focusing more on my grievances, but it is also important to recognize that others are going through the same as you,” a woman explains. The tension inside the family radically shifted and disappeared after each of them expressed their feeling and expectations from each other.

Beginning therapy was one of the best decisions my aunt has made during her battle with breast cancer, as it returned her previous positive mindset and united her family more than ever. Talking with the daughter about accurate prognosis, fears and consequences brought them closer as women and as family, ensuring support for each other at all times. Michelle also started to recognize and acknowledge support from her husband, who was trying to be the pillar, when in reality, he was also fearful for his wife’s life. Thus, going through individual and group therapy revealed each of the member’s grievances, teaching one another how to deal with them and show support no matter the consequence.

Luckily, with the loving support of the family and immense internal strength, Michelle is in the final stages of recovering from breast cancer. She is a proud survivor, and although she will never be the same joyful and spirited woman, she has changed into a proud, strong, and loving mother, wife, and daughter that inspires the whole family each day. She has shown integral progress mentally and physically throughout her fight with breast cancer, becoming a better version of herself. After being declared cancer-free, she applied for psychology courses at a local community college. Aunt is now aspiring to become a certified counselor to professionally help women like her battle with destructive thoughts during her cancer journey.

References

American Cancer Society. (2020). Depression. Web.

Mayo Clinic. (2019). Breast cancer – Symptoms and causes. Web.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Breast Cancer: The Story of One Patient." July 26, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/breast-cancer-the-story-of-one-patient/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Breast Cancer: The Story of One Patient'. 26 July.

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